Travelling to Rhodes - Covid-19 Information
Image © Rhodes Guide / RhodesGuide.com

The Ancient Greek Siege Warfare

Although most of the Greek city-states, excluding Sparta, had fortifications from the earliest period, the siege warfare was a strangely absent affair in Ancient Greece for a prolonged period, as there is no reliable evidence of sieges occurring from 1100 – 490 BC.


Considering that the practice was extensively employed in neighboring regions, most notably by the Egyptians and the Persians, its absence in the Greek world is somewhat surprising. In reality, siege warfare was just incompatible with the Hellenic military traditions of the time, as well as with the socio-cultural mentality of the Hellenic city-states.

Historians argue that the strong correlation between democratic values and hoplite warfare, as developed in the archaic period, made the violent siege of another Greek city a very complicated and even shameful in the eyes of a Greek citizen-soldier.

However, with the coming of the Peloponnesian Wars and the general abandonment of the previous rules of warfare, siege warfare becomes a very efficient and popular method, reflecting the general lack of empathy that characterizes this conflict. Cities sought to protect their suburbs, re-supplying routes, and harbors.


Most notably, Athens constructed the Long Walls during the first stages of the conflict. Construction lasted from 462-450 BC, while the walls spanned 7km and stretched all the way from Athens to the city’s port, Piraeus. Despite an Athenian defeat in 457 BC, their completion ensured that Athens would never be left without supplies in the future, while it mostly became an island on the mainland, and no land force could conquer it. This construction informed the Athenian strategy of the 5th century, which focused on the naval dominance instead of land warfare, but also the general defensive mentality of the Classical period.

The existence of the Long Walls and the absence of regular naval or land battles between Athens and Sparta prolonged the war and gave rise to alternative methods such as guerilla tactics, raids, and scorched earth strategies. During the Peloponnesian War, a standard pattern was set in regards to the Long Walls; Spartans would send armies to raid the province of Attica to force the Athenian forces out of their city, while the Athenians stayed within their walls and dispatched their navy to raid towns around the Peloponnese. Both tactics were criticized by contemporary and later writers. This typical pattern was ultimately destructive for both city-states, especially for Athens.


Although they succeeded in avoiding the land battles against the Spartan army, the Spartan raids hit the Athenian economy hard, while the fact that the population was almost entirely within the city’s walls in numerous cases of Spartan offensive, resulted in disease outbreaks which decimated the population, particularly in 430 BC. Towards the end of the war and particularly after the Sicilian expedition Athenian Walls were the sole defense of the city-state that protected it from a total defeat. At the end of the war, Spartans had to invest in their navy as it was the only way to subdue any further Athenian resistance.

Article topics


The Ancient Greek Siege Warfare reviews & comments

click here to add your review!
No reviews yet. Be the first to write one using the form below!

Let us know what you think about The Ancient Greek Siege Warfare - your opinion matters!
Rate this article or place (optional)

From our blog

The way in which food and sweets are prepared in the different areas of Greece, including Rhodes, repeated in the course of the centuries, spread from area to area and from household to household, has contributed to the shaping of Traditional Greek Cuisine.

Read more about Food in Rhodes: Gastronomy & traditional diet

In early April 2010 Susan, Richard and myself (Stephen) thought we would look at re-offering the easy walk from Laerma to Agios Isidoros which we stopped doing after the fire in July 2008 that devastated this area, the walk in question is on a dirt track road and is approx 12km (7.5miles) long, it takes about 3-4hrs to walk at a leisurely pace.

Read more about Regeneration of the ecology after the the fire of 2008

Rhodes is a historic island which has been a crossroad of civilizations in antiquity. Boasting a unique culture, diverse nature, impressive architecture, perfect weather, beautiful coastlines and friendly people helps to make the island the first choice holiday destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Yet the beauty of Rhodes doesn’t end on the surface. An amazing world of supreme beauty is waiting for you under the sea, for some extraordinary underwater experiences!

Read more about Diving in Rhodes

Time to have a look to some of the best breakfast and brunch in Rhodes. There is nothing more glorious than starting a day with plenty of time for a breakfast, when you want a table filled with delights, baked goodies and drizzled everything.

Read more about Food in Rhodes: Top places for breakfast and brunch

The "Medieval Rose" is a non-governmental, non-profit association, with the ambitious but realistic aim of organizing an annual Medieval Festival within the walls of the Medieval Town of Rhodes - the best preserved, while continuously inhabited, surrounded by walls and moat, medieval town in the world (monument of cultural and architectural world heritage - UNESCO 1988).

Read more about The Rhodes Medieval Rose Festival 2019

Your best chance to safely explore Rhodes island at your own pace and preference is by renting a car. With an area of 1412 square kilometers, Rhodes is one of the largest islands in Greece. The driving distance from it’s most northern part - Rhodes Town - to the most southern point - Prasonisi - is 92 km or 108 km depending on the route you will choose.

Read more about Car Hire and Driving in Rhodes Greece

On Sunday 14th April 2019, runners will have the opportunity to run in Rhodes, on a flat course with the spectacular views of the deep blue Aegean Sea, along the coastline and the walls of the Medieval Town of Rhodes, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Read more about Roads to Rhodes Marathon 2019

Feedback